USA TODAY Sports Weekly
’NOVA, MARYLAND FACE MAJOR TESTS
USA TODAY Sports’ Scott Gleeson looks at the best college men’s basketball matchups this weekend. Records through Monday.
No. 4 Villanova at No. 11 Providence
Saturday, 2:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1
About the Wildcats (18-3, 8-1): Villanova, out front in the Big East, has a case for a No. 1 NCAA tournament seed. The Wildcats’ three losses came against top-tier teams Oklahoma, Virginia and Providence. This is an excellent defensive team. Villa- nova ranks seventh nationally in scoring defense, allowing 61.2 points per game, and 10th in field goal percentage defense, limiting opponents to 38.1% shooting from the floor. It also has a balanced offense, with nearly five players averaging in double figures.
About the Friars (18-4, 6-3): For as much love as future NBA player Kris Dunn has received, Ben Bentil is equally deserving of attention. Bentil and Rodney Bullock (12.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) have blossomed as sophomores to provide Dunn a supporting cast. Dunn and Bentil, in particular, give coach Ed Cooley a Big East title-contending team and perhaps even a Final Four-caliber team. Outside of those three, the offense isn’t exactly high-octane; no other player averages more than seven points per game. And the Friars rank 238th nationally in field goal percentage (42.8%).
Star watch: Villanova guard Josh Hart (15.6 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and guard Ryan Arcidiacono (12.5 ppg, 4.2 apg). Providence forward Bentil (20.3 ppg, 8.1 rpg) and guard Dunn (17.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 6.9 apg).
The pick: Villanova. In the teams’ first matchup, coach Jay Wright found a way to stop Dunn. Kind of. The All-American had 13 points and 14 assists, but Bentil had 31 points. Providence stole that game on the road in overtime. Now it’s ’Nova’s turn to steal it back.
No. 16 Purdue at No. 3 Maryland
Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN About the Boilermakers (19-4, 7-3): When A.J. Hammons plays up to his ability, as he did in a 32-point, 11-rebound, four-block performance against Nebraska on Jan. 30, Purdue is extremely tough to beat. When he doesn’t, Purdue loses — to Iowa twice and at basement-dwelling Illinois. The 7-footer helps the Boilermakers rank second nationally in rebounding (12.3 per game) and eighth in field goal percentage defense (38.1%). A key for this team is freshman Caleb Swanigan (9.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg), who’s recovering from an ankle injury. Purdue tends to play sloppy, and it often costs them; the Boilermakers rank 301st nationally in turnover margin (-2.0).
About the Terrapins (19-3, 8-2): The Terrapins notched a signature win Jan. 28, handing Iowa its first Big Ten loss. The conference title is in Maryland’s grasp; it just has to play its best brand of basketball. On paper, this is the most complete starting lineup in the country. In the Iowa win, Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon came up big with 17 points and five assists. All five starters have the ability to lead the way offensively, and coach Mark Turgeon has a nice mix of veterans and up-and-coming talent.
Star watch: Purdue center Hammons (14.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and forward Vince Edwards (10.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg). Maryland guard Melo Trimble (14.5 ppg, 5.4 apg) and forward Robert Carter (13.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg).